08 May 2013

Commentary - 2013 U.S. Championships, Round 4

Round 4 of the championships featured both Gata Kamsky and Irina Krush winning again to keep their perfect (4-0) start.  For me the most relevant game was Krush-Belakovskaia, with both players coming off victories in the earlier round.  Black employs a somewhat strange hybrid of English variations, an experiment which backfires as Krush appears comfortable in the novel position, while Black's pieces become progressively more uncoordinated and her counterplay on the kingside is neutralized by White.  Krush then plays the endgame masterfully, having inflicted multiple weaknesses on Black during the middlegame, and brilliantly calculates ahead to the winning K+P endgame position.

[Event "2013 U.S. and Womens' Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis, Missouri, USA"] [Date "2013.05.06"] [Round "4.2"] [White "Krush, Irina"] [Black "Belakovskaia, Anjelina"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A35"] [WhiteElo "2470"] [BlackElo "2263"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "123"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] [TimeControl "6000+1075"] [WhiteClock "0:11:17"] [BlackClock "0:02:42"] 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 c5 3. Nf3 Nc6 {while the move order is unusual, the line of the Symmetrical English with ...e5 is popular at high levels.} 4. g3 f5 { this pawn thrust, however, is not. The usual step here is for Black to fianchetto his dark-square bishop, as shown by this top-level clash between Kramnik and Carlsen.} (4... g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O Nge7 7. a3 a5 8. Ne1 d6 9. Nc2 O-O 10. d3 Rb8 11. Rb1 Be6 12. b4 axb4 13. axb4 cxb4 14. Nxb4 Nxb4 15. Rxb4 d5 16. cxd5 Nxd5 17. Nxd5 Bxd5 18. Rb5 Bxg2 19. Kxg2 Qd7 20. Qb3 Rfc8 21. Bb2 Qd6 22. Rb1 Rc5 23. Rb6 Rc6 24. Rxb7 Rxb7 25. Qxb7 Rb6 26. Qc8+ Qf8 27. Qd7 h5 28. e4 Qd6 29. Qe8+ Qf8 30. Qd7 Qd6 31. Qxd6 Rxd6 32. Rd1 f5 33. f3 fxe4 34. fxe4 Rb6 35. Bc3 Rb3 36. Ba1 Kf7 37. Kf3 Ke6 38. h3 Bh6 39. Ke2 Bg5 40. Rg1 Bh6 41. h4 Kd6 42. Rd1 Ke6 43. Rf1 Rb4 44. Rd1 Rb3 45. Rg1 Kf6 46. Rh1 Ke6 47. Rd1 Kf6 48. d4 Re3+ 49. Kf2 Rxe4 50. dxe5+ Kf5 51. Rd7 Kg4 52. Rd6 Be3+ 53. Ke2 Bf4+ 54. Kd3 Re3+ 55. Kc4 Bxe5 56. Rxg6+ Kf3 57. Bxe5 Rxe5 58. Rg5 Re4+ 59. Kd5 Rg4 60. Ke5 Kxg3 61. Rxh5 Rxh4 62. Rxh4 Kxh4 {1/2-1/2 (62) Kramnik,V (2795) -Carlsen,M (2848) London 2012}) 5. d3 {White needs to prevent ...e4.} Be7 { usual is ... Nf6 here, retaining some flexibility for the bishop.} 6. Bg2 Nf6 7. O-O O-O {at this point White has a classic English formation, used most often against a KID setup or a closed formation with the ...f5 advance. Black has changed things up by playing ...c5, with more of a lock on b4 and d4, but also leaving behind a big hole on d5, which is the key square in the English for White.} 8. a3 Rb8 9. Rb1 {pursuing the standard queenside expansion idea of pushing the b-pawn. Note that the lack of a fianchettoed bishop on g7 means that White does not have to worry about protecting the Nc3, among other things. The text move is a novelty according to the database, but there are only two other games with this position, so perhaps it's not so much of a surprise.} Qe8 $14 {Houdini awards White a slight edge. White's pieces are certainly better coordinated and she enjoys a slight lead in development, along with good prospects on the queenside.} 10. Nd5 {a somewhat paradoxical aspect of the English in general is the willingness of White to play what appears to be a premature knight sally to d5, inviting an exchange and doubling his d-pawns. In practical terms, however, the d5 pawn can seriously cramp Black while the newly half-open c-file offers White good opportunities for pressuring Black while employing a minority attack using the a- and b-pawns.} Bd6 (10... Nxd5 { is also a bad idea in this specific position for tactical reasons, because the Nc6 gets chased off and there is no Bg7 to protect the e5 pawn.} 11. cxd5 Nd4 12. Nxe5) 11. e4 {Krush chooses to play in the center rather than on the queenside.} (11. b4 Nxd5 12. cxd5 Nd4 13. Re1 {would be the more standard way to play. A possible continuation would be} f4 14. Nd2 fxg3 15. hxg3 cxb4 16. Ne4 $14) 11... b5 12. Nxf6+ Rxf6 13. exf5 Rxf5 {the last sequence did away with Black's f-pawn, which often plays a key role in Black's kingside attack in these types of positions. The half-open f-file may look dangerous, but Blacks threats there are more easily neutralized by White. Also note the continuing lack of coordination among Black's pieces.} 14. Ng5 (14. cxb5 { is Houdini's preference, exchanging prior to making the knight thrust. The engine assesses that letting Black exchange first and then plant a knight on d4 leads to equality.} Rxb5 {the presence of the hanging rook on b5 subsequently allows the threat of Qg4-c4+ forking rook and king.} 15. Ng5 { and now} Be7 {doesn't work for tactical reasons:} 16. Qg4 Nd4 17. Bd5+ Kh8 18. Qxf5 Nxf5 19. Nf7+ Qxf7 (19... Kg8 20. Nd6+ Kf8 21. Nxe8 Kxe8 22. Re1 Nd4 23. Rxe5) 20. Bxf7 $16) 14... Be7 15. Ne4 $11 {White's immediate threats have evaporated and it's back to positional maneuvering.} (15. Qg4 {is a tactical way to play and is still good for White, but not nearly as threatening as in the above variation.} Rf8 {here Black can simply retreat the rook, for example. } 16. Bd5+ Kh8 17. Nxh7 d6 18. Qe4 Bf5 19. Qg2 Bxh7 20. Bxc6) 15... Ba6 16. Nc3 (16. cxb5 Bxb5 17. Nc3) 16... Kh8 (16... bxc4 {would seem to preempt White's threats on the queenside.}) 17. cxb5 Bxb5 18. Nxb5 Rxb5 $14 19. Bxc6 {White chooses to give up the strong Bg2 and the bishop pair for longer-term compensation in the form of the doubled c-pawns.} (19. Be3 $5) 19... dxc6 20. Bd2 Qd7 21. Bc3 {as is common in some of these variations, White's dark-square bishop takes a long time to be developed. Here Krush finds an excellent place for it.} Rb8 22. Qe2 Qd5 23. f3 (23. Qe4 {White is clearly not afraid of an endgame, given Black's weaknesses, and this would immediately and powerfully centralize her queen, forcing Black to lose a tempo because of the attack on the hanging Rf5.}) 23... Bd6 24. Kg2 Kg8 25. Qe4 Rbf8 26. Rbe1 {White simply ratchets up the pressure in the center, at no cost to herself. Black meanwhile is barely defending and cannot generate counterplay.} h5 27. h4 Qxe4 $16 { Black decides to reduce the pressure and heads into a major and minor piece ending, where White however has all the chances.} 28. dxe4 R5f7 29. Rd1 Bc7 30. Rd3 {deliberately provoking the lead c-pawn's advance, further weakening Black's formation.} c4 31. Rd2 a5 {using a prophylactic move to prevent Bb4, after which White further dominates the position.} 32. a4 Kh7 33. Rc2 Rb8 34. Rff2 Bb6 35. Rfe2 Rbf8 $2 {Houdini pegs this as the losing move. Black likely foresaw a positional crush and decided to deliberately imbalance the position in the hopes of generating some practical counterplay chances.} (35... Re8) 36. Bxe5 Rxf3 37. Bf4 $16 {White now has a comfortable plus, with material gain coming soon.} (37. Bd6 {is the more aggressive line preferred by Houdini, leveraging the passed pawn to good effect.} R8f7 38. e5 Rd3 39. Rxc4 (39. e6 { is also possible}) 39... Rd7 40. Rxc6 $18) 37... Rb3 38. Rxc4 {the weakened pawn is now snapped off.} Rf6 39. Be5 Rg6 40. Bc3 Bc7 {Black has too many weaknesses and cannot stop the e-pawn while protecting the rest of her position.} 41. Re3 Be5 42. Rc5 Bxc3 43. bxc3 Rb2+ 44. Kh3 Kh6 45. e5 Re6 46. Rxa5 Ra2 47. Ra8 Kg6 48. a5 c5 49. a6 Raxa6 50. Rxa6 Rxa6 51. e6 Ra8 52. g4 { an excellent move, the purposes of which is to activate her king.} hxg4+ 53. Kxg4 Re8 54. c4 Kf6 {this looks good for Black, but Krush has correctly calculated the resulting pawn ending as a win for White.} 55. e7 Rxe7 56. Rxe7 Kxe7 57. Kf5 Kf7 58. h5 Kg8 59. Ke5 Kh7 60. Kd5 Kh6 61. Kxc5 Kxh5 62. Kd5 { and after both pawns promote, White is ahead a tempo and can play Qh8+ followed by Qg8+ to skewer the king against the unprotected Qg1. If Black does not go for the pawn race, then White queens anyway.} 1-0

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